Relation and Religion matters in our Spiritual Journey (7)

Question #7 – “Religion does not matter, relation does,” is often heard from some people giving the idea that religion is not needed in our spiritual journey.  Is this saying correct? 

Answer:  It depends on what is the definition of religion an individual or group would adopt.

When correctly defined, religion includes knowledge about God, faith in the merit of Christ’s sacrificial death, as well as loving obedience to Christ who saves.  But if religion means the religious structure or the name of one’s group, then religion does not save. That group may be called a “Fellowship” or it could be a formally organized international group (church) with a well defined organizational structure with officers and some beliefs based on the feelings of their leaders.  Or maybe local congregations with universal distribution seeking to follow just what the Holy Bible dictates. Christ is the Redeemer and He left several directives including these: “If you love me, keep My commandments,” (John 14:15) and “Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” 

Those who deny the importance of religion should tell us which view of religion do they consider useless and show us proofs from the Bible why religion should be disregarded.  

Definition of religion

a.  Etymologically, the word religion comes from two terms: RE means ‘again’, and RELIGIO from the Latin root verb LIG which means ‘to bind.’ In the context of Christianity, religion means to again bind God and mankind who have been separated by sin since the time of Adam.  Those who claim that religion is not important means that they do not like to reclaim the bond of God with mankind as it did exist before the fall of Adam and Eve at the Garden of Eden. 

b.  According to the Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary, page 1064, Volume 2, another meaning of the word RELIGION: “A system of faith and worship including reverence and reliance on a divine being, firm adherence to divine truth of religious doctrines with godly living.”  Those who deny the importance of religion would then have no system of faith and worship, no reverence and reliance on a divine being, no religious doctrines and godly living. Their group would then just be a social club and entertainment.

c.  True Christianity has a set of rules, a set of doctrines, a set of teachings or a set of instructions contained in the Holy Bible, the book that reveals God’s will for mankind.  As evidence of this view to make you feel the presence of a system in the Christian religion, you combine the contexts of Jude 3-4 with its “faith once for all delivered to the saints”, Acts 2:42 which says, “. . . they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrines and fellowship in the breaking of bread, and in prayers”, 1Tim. 4:16, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you”, and 2Cor. 4:13-14, “But since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believe and therefore I spoke,’ we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.”  You see, there is a codified system of faith and practice in religion.

Clearly, there is a system followed by the Christian religion that sets the measure of acceptable relationship with God the Creator and Judge of all mankind. A disregard for this Christian system will get this judgment verdict of Christ at the last day: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matt. 7:21—23, NKJV)

d.  McDowell & Stewart in their book Understanding Non-Christian Religions define religion this way: “that aspect of one’s experience in which he attempts to live harmoniously with the power or powers he believes are controlling the world.”  Those who deny the importance of religion would then do away with a system of relating to the divine being that controls the universe. If these people have no religion, then they make themselves their own God and their own ideas as the basis of relationship with the God they adore. 

Christianity is Our Religion

Our Lord Jesus Christ says this in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”  And in John 14:6, Christ declares: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 20:30-31 reads, “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book, but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” In sum, the Christian religion is embodied in Christ Jesus. Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Aside from being the sacrifice for sins, Christ is also our Mediator interceding in our behalf for our salvation. 

Religion and Relation Are Intertwined

Since religion is a system of belief and practices, religion, therefore, is the measure of the right relationship one has with the divine being he worships.  Without religion, an individual makes his own feelings and his own ideas as the bases of his relationship with whoever that God he thinks rules the universe and beyond. But with the Bible as the revelation of God’s will for mankind, we have a revealed religion as the measure of our relationship with the Creator God whom we worship. It is not religion OR relation. It is true religion AND correct relation.  Both are equally important. Religion based on the proper interpretation of the Bible sets the proper relation with the God we worship, love and obey from the heart.

Relation over Religion? (6)

Question #6:  “What matters is relation, not religion” is an oft-repeated saying among many religious groups and fellowships.  Is this claim correct?

Answer:  The above claim is wrong. It lacks specificity.  It lacks definition. Not all relation is acceptable to God.  Relation with Satan does not allow one to get into life eternal.  Male and male sexual partnership, female and female sexual relation is damnable says the Holy Scripture.  Some religious groups think their relationship with God based on the dreams of some religious leaders brings them into the glorious presence of God, but the end thereof is destruction. The Scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees thought their relationship with God was correct but they were castigated by Christ Jesus in Matthew 23 because they considered their traditions as the true interpretation of God’s Law.  All these give us the idea that not all relationships are correct. 

James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”  Added to this passage is Apostle Paul’s admonition in Titus 2:11-14, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”

The right relationship with God in this present age is based on the merits of Christ Jesus who paid the penalty of sin through His death at the cross.  Our Lord Jesus Christ demands the renunciation of ungodliness and worldly passions with zeal for good works. Visiting the orphans and the widows is one aspect of good works that James wanted to be exercised by those who professed faith in Christ.  Many disciples during the time of James were shouting the profession of faith, but they lacked good works, so their relation with God and their religion was wrong. They lacked the spirit of Christ’s Parable of the Good Samaritan. 

Matthew 25:31-46 tells us of the instructions of our Lord Jesus Christ to assist those who are hungry and thirsty both for biological and spiritual sustenance. Care for the sick, assistance for the strangers and visiting those in prison glorify the Father in Heaven. These are aspects of pure religion and establish a good relationship with Christ. “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (v.40). That is an acceptable relationship with the King of kings, with Christ. Acceptable relationship with Christ is understood from the following passages:  Mark 3:35, “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” In Matt. 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” So we need to know the WILL OF THE FATHER.

Conclusion:  The proposition in Christianity is not either Religion or Relation.  Rather, it is both Correct Religion and Correct Relation. One’s religion based on the will of God that is found in the Bible is one’s relation with God. When one’s religion is wrong, his relation with God is also wrong. When one’s relation with God is wrong, his religion is wrong.